BUIES CREEK, N.C. – Michael Felton singled home John Reilly in the bottom of the ninth inning, sending the Campbell Camels to a 4-3 win over the VMI Keydets in Big South baseball action Saturday in Buies Creek, N.C. The contest was the middle game of a three-game series and marked VMI’s third consecutive walk-off loss.
With the game tied, 3-3, Reilly led off the Campbell (34-8, 13-4 Big South) ninth with a single off VMI’s (18-24, 5-9 BSC) John Garrett. A sacrifice bunt moved him to second, and Andrew Montague relieved. Montague induced a fly-out from Brent Graham on a spectacular catch by Brandon Angus, but Felton poked a 0-1 pitch through the right side. Right fielder Will Connerley’s throw was in time, but was up the line several feet and Reilly was able to maneuver his slide around the tag of Matt Winn to score the winning run.
After the teams used just one reliever between them in Friday’s series opener, nine total pitchers took the hill Saturday and neither starter figured in the decision. David Olson, who started as the designated hitter, picked up the win for Campbell, moving to 2-0 with two scoreless innings, while Garrett took the loss for the Keydets. He dropped to 3-3 after allowing a run on one hit and a walk in 2 1/3 innings. That hit, Reilly’s ninth-inning single, ended a run that saw Keydet pitching give up just one hit over a six-inning span in the middle of the game.
The Keydets threatened in the first against current Big South Pitcher of the Week Heath Bowers. Tarsovich reached on an error to start the inning, and one out later, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Rob Dickinson, however, popped up to shortstop and Matt Winn grounded out to end the inning.
Campbell broke through in the second against T.J. Lighton, who was making his first career weekend start. Michael DeLucia singled and Nick Ray followed with a double, putting runners at second and third with no outs. Trevor Lane then looped a two-run single to right, putting the Camels up, 2-0.
The Keydets came right back in the third, as Nick Dwyer doubled with one out. Tarsovich popped out, but Angus walked and Dickinson drilled a double to right, plating both runners and tying the score, 2-2. The hit broke a streak of 13 straight hitless VMI at-bats with runners in scoring position, dating back to Friday’s game.
The Camels retook the lead in the fourth when DeLucia walked and one out later, Lane did as well. That brought Jonathan Kelley out of the bullpen, and he walked Reilly to load the bases. Andrew Woods relieved and Ben McQuown lofted a sacrifice fly to right, scoring DeLucia to make it a 3-2 game.
Again, the home team could not execute the shutdown inning and VMI got back on the board in the fifth. Dwyer walked with one out, and Tarsovich followed with a single to left. One out later, Dickinson was intentionally walked to load the bases and Winn drew a free pass as well, scoring a run to tie the game, 3-3.
One of the big plays in the game came in the bottom of the fifth, when with two outs, Elijah Trail hit a pop-up into shallow center. Dickinson charged from his center field position and Dwyer backpedaled from shortstop. Dwyer made the catch going toward left-center, but the two collided. One inning later, Dickinson was removed from the game with an undisclosed injury and is day to day.
The Keydets then threatened in the seventh, when Tarsovich walked with one out and Angus was hit by a pitch. That brought Coley Thompkins out of the CU bullpen, and Cameron Walter to the plate in the spot previously occupied by Dickinson. Walter fouled out to third baseman Trail and Winn flew out to right field, ending the inning.
Garrett pitched out of a CU threat in the seventh and VMI threatened in the eighth. Red Dowdell led off with a ground ball up the middle that Graham somehow reached, going full speed to his left. The shortstop made a 360 degree pirouette turn and threw to first, but threw wildly for an error. Dowdell advanced to second on the play, where he was run for by Brandon Diamond. Diamond advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, but pinch-hitter Sheldon Shifflett struck out, as did Drew Bryan to end the inning.
The Keydets mounted another rally in the ninth, when Tarsovich laced a one-out double to right center. Angus then hit a ground ball to short, and Tarsovich was thrown out 6-5 running on contact. Angus stole second and Walter walked, but Winn flew out to fairly deep center field to end the inning and set up Campbell’s game-winning ninth.
Offensively, Tarsovich led the Keydets with a 2 for 4 day, while Dickinson went 1 for 2 with a walk and two RBI. Felton was the only CU player to notch two hits.
VMI baseball will return to action Sunday, when the Keydets and Campbell conclude their three-game series Sunday in the series finale at 1 p.m.